SpaceX Dragon freighter leaves space station to return to Earth

A SpaceX Dragon freighter is back on Earth.

The uncrewed Dragon CRS-24 supply ship undocked from the International Space Station on Sunday, Dec. 23, after just over a month tied to the orbiting laboratory. The spacecraft, loaded with more than 2 tons of gear, departed the station at 10:40 a.m. EST (1540 GMT) after a two-day delay due to weather at the landing site. The spacecraft is expected to crash off the west coast of Florida on Monday.

“Dragon separation confirmed,” NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn radioed Mission Control from the station as the SpaceX capsule undocked. Dragon and the station were sailing over the South Pacific Ocean at the time.

Related: Live updates from the International Space Station

SpaceX’s Dragon CRS-24 freighter is expected to crash into the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City, Florida at 4:05 p.m. EST (2105 GMT) Monday afternoon, although landing is not expected. broadcast, NASA officials said. . The spacecraft carries more than 4,900 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of science experiment results and other station equipment back to Earth.

“Expedition 66 wishes the Dragon well on its return,” Marshburn told mission control on behalf of the station’s current Expedition 66 crew. “Congratulations to Houston and SpaceX. I can’t wait to see what the results bring.”

SpaceX launched the CRS-24 Dragon freighter on December 21 to deliver more than 6,500 pounds (2,900 kg) of supplies, science equipment and other hardware. He arrived at the station on December 23 to complete his delivery, which also included Christmas treats for the station crew.

The Dragon spacecraft has already visited the space station. SpaceX used it to deliver cargo to NASA during the CRS-22 delivery mission in June 2021. Once back on Earth on Monday, SpaceX teams will recover the capsule with recovery ships and deliver its science transport and freight to NASA.

Some of this cargo returning to Earth includes long-awaited scientific results. On board the capsule are the results of a study called “Cytoskeleton” to study how weightlessness affects mammalian cells, a science that could one day help astronauts on long-duration space missions. The results of another study, called InSpace-4, could help scientists develop new ways to use nanoparticles to build new materials for spaceflight.

A close-up of SpaceX’s CRS-24 freighter as it departs the International Space Station on January 23, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

One old item making a return to Earth is the Optical Microscopy Module, or LMM, a once-state-of-the-art imaging microscope that had been on board the space station since 2009. It’s now retired from service.

“Sponsored by NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division, this powerful diagnostic tool has enabled new research into microscopic phenomena in microgravity, providing the ability to remotely acquire and download images and video at multiple levels magnification,” NASA officials wrote in a statement. “LMM has made it possible to observe and record how matter is organized and moves at the microscopic level.”

Although NASA won’t broadcast the Dragon CRS-24 freighter’s descent and landing, you can follow its progress online. NASA will post updates on the return of the spacecraft on its space station blog. SpaceX should also post an update on his Twitter page with the results of the splashdown on Monday afternoon.

Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and instagram.